Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November 8th Warwick Castle including the Dungeons

On November 8th, we drove to Warwick Castle from our hotel outside of Stratford. This Castle has been around since the time of William the Conqueror. It is a beautifully complete castle with all the walls and towers you would expect. The entrance is through an arched tunnel with a portcullis drawn up at the end, but ready to drop down and prevent intruders from entering the castle. Inside the walls were a number of temporary medieval tents which were used for shops and for demonstrations of medieval arts.
Inside the castle the first think we saw was the Great Hall. Presently it is used to show the armour used in the castle over the centuries. There was a fire blazing in the huge fireplace. It made it a very inviting place on a cold wet day. Along with the arms and armour there were beautiful stained glass windows and gorgeous carved buffets and intricate light fixtures. One of the strange items is a large cast iron pot that we were told was a Porridge Pot, but in the 30's Daisy (Duchess of Warwick) used the pot as a punch bowl.
Portions of the castle are setup with wax figures. One set is Henry VIII and all his wives and another set of tableaus was of the Castle in the 30's and included such illustrious persons as Winston Churchill. Another section dealt with an earlier Duke of Warwick who was involved with the War of the Roses (on the wrong side). My accomplishment for the day was to climb all the towers. This was approximately 530 steps. The good part was that the steps were not all together but were broken up in stages. You climbed one flight then explored that level and climbed to the next level etc. I rested between flights and managed all the steps. I got some great pictures of the surrounding area as well.
The restaurant in the lower part of the castle was decorated with tapestries and the ceiling had hangings across it to simulate the inside of a tent.
In the afternoon we lined up to explore the dungeons. No pictures allowed. This was so much fun. It started out with a picture being taken then we were hustled down into the dungeon. Witches, warlock, torturer, judge, plague nurse, executioner all had parts to play. The lights went out, lightning, thunder, screams, when blood was expected we got wet (water I hope). The best part was when the screams and voices in the dungeon got loud and all of a sudden the lights went out and the benches we were sitting on started to wiggle as if someone was grabbing the bottom of the bench or something was running along the bottom. I know I jumped and screamed. When we thought we were leaving we ended up in a hall of mirrors and had a hard time telling in the dark if it was us or someone else.

After the show we headed off the castle grounds. Before we left we had our pictures taken in the stocks as the thief and the drunkard. We took a stroll around the village and stopped for ice cream. We ate it inside the store as it was too cold to eat it outside. It was still delicious.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Catch up

I owe you three days worth of blogs and I will get them to you. They are Warwick Castle including the dungeon tour, Caernarfon Castle and Snowdonia and Liverpool and the Beatles.  I am sitting in the airport ready to come home. If I don't get the updates done here I will add them when I get home.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nov. 7th Portsmouth, Spinnaker Tower and Stratford.

I have thirty minutes only so I may not blog tonight. I will fill you in on all the adventures tomorrow. It is now tomorrow so here is the entry to go along with the pictures I posted.
We arrived at Portsmouth Historic Docklands around 10:00 am. There are numerous museums here and three ships in particular. Nelso's ship Victory, the Warrior and the remains of the Mary Rose, which was Henry VIII's flagship which sunk over 400 years ago and was recently (20 years ago) raised from the floor of the harbour.
The tour of the three ships was very exciting. Victory is still considered a ship of the line. We visited all decks and heard from the guide all sorts of details about life on the ship. He was also very knowledgeable about Nelson, both his service and his death. Interestingly, in order to bring his body back to England for burial (it took three months) they pickled him in alcohol.
The museum built for the Mary Rose, which is only one third of a ship, is very impressive. It holds not only the outer hull of the ship and part of the interior deck, but also many artifacts, skeletons of the crew clothing, tools, etc. They have righted the portion of the ship they recovered, which was preserved by being covered in silt, and set up the building that houses it in three levels with viewing windows at each level. The rest of each level is given over to displays of the artifacts and explanatio of how they were identified and which part of the ship or which person they belonged to.
The Warrior was one of the first iron ships of the line but designed like the old ships of the line. It never fired a gun in anger, because it was built at the end of the Napoleonic war and by the time their was another war it was out of date. It is a beautiful Ship and as we walked around we compared it to the others. Many similarities but also differences. A power plant not a sailing ship. More modern kitchens. Better officers quarters and slightly better men's quarters.
After the tours we decided against the boat tour as it had turned quite cold and windy. Spinnaker Tower is on the quayside near the entrance to the harbour. We decided to take a trip up the tower as ther appeared to be three viewing levels. The elevator left us off at the first level and we had some beautiful views. Key buildings were shown on the windows so we had fun trying to find them all. Next up we climbed to the second level but it was only a tearoom, so up to the next level we went. It turned out that this level was open to the sky. There was a net barrier overhead but it started to rain so we stayed a while but not too long. We headed down to the tearoom to warm up with hot chocolate and discovered that between floors a mist had come in and the ferries that had been in plain view five minutes ago were now invisible. As we drank the hot chocolate the view cleared as the mist past over land and the rain stopped. We headed for the elevator and stopped in the souvenir shop to pick up a picture of us with the tower in the background and some souvenirs. Off we went to collect the car and head for Stratford where we were staying overnight.
It gets dark very early here so most of our journey was in the dark. Nicky has done a wonderful job driving us around this week. We arrived in Stratford and checked into the hotel which was on the outskirts of town. We headed into town and found a pub, "The Thatch Tavern" to have supper at and then walked around town looking for Shakepeare's birthplace. We eventually found it only to discover that the car was parked about 100 metres from it. We had walked completely around the block when we were right beside it. Back to the hotel for a glass of wine and a good end to a great day.

November 6th Salisbury.

We drove to Salisbury in the morning.
The traffic was heavy at times but we kept moving. Luckily we found a parking garage very close to the Cathedral. The weather started out bright and beautiful but clouds rolled in by the time we arrived at Salisbury.
As we waited for a tour the chaplain of the Cathedral, who says prayers every hour spoke to us and pointed out some of the items of interest.
Volunteers give tours of the church and the room holding the copy of the Magna Carta. Frank was our volunteer. He was a senior citizen and very knowledgeable about the cathedral. We had a great tour taking more than an hour. He showed us original parts and those destroyed in Cromwells time. He pointed out special graves and altars and had many anecdotes about royal figures buried there.
After the tour of the church we went to another area and viewed one of only four extant copies of the Magna Carta. This one is in excellent condition because it was misfiled and therefore wasn't exposed to the elements or to Cromwell or other arguing forces. There are English translations of the document but the original was written in Latin. The reason there are several copies was that they sent one to each area of England and many were kept in the Cathedrals.
Next we stopped for a late lunch of tomato and basil soup. Delicious! We ate it right in the restaurant attached to the Cathedral. It had rained while we were inside but had now stopped. We could see the outside wall of the cathedral through a glass wall in the restaurant.
On to Portsmouth. We found our Premier Inn and relaxed and unpacked. There is a pub across the road so later we went for dinner. We had a lovely meal but the highlight of the evening was dessert. Profiteroles with delicious filling, chocolate sauce, cream poured over and ice cream on the side. Enough for two to share. Sorry no picture. We ate them before I thought of it. Off to the Dockyards tomorrow.

Nov 5th I have arrived in England.

I left Brussels around noon on the Eurostar to St. Pancreas. Had a nice man from Liverpool as a seatmate. He had been away on business. Turned my phone back one hour. Caught the train th Peterborough. Nicky picked me up. She has a very nice new house on a new estate. We started my laundry and went out to buy me a new cord for the iPad. Mine broke internally yesterday so the iPad won't charge.
Nicky made a great supper and we watched some Guy Fawkes fireworks out the window. I borrowed a suitcase for the whirlwind tour so we don't have to drag the big one in and out and we will be off just after 9:00 in the morning. Comfy bed and a good friend. What more could you ask.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nov. 4th last full day in Brussels

Another cold day in Brussels, but not as windy.  On the way to the Museum this morning I did some shopping picked up a few souvenirs and took a picture of a Belgian beer store. These stores are all tiny si I'm not sure how they keep any amount of beer cold.
The Brussels Museum is in the Grand Place. I got a discount for being old. Yeah for being old! The first and second floors had ancient art that had obviously been dug up plus tapestries, beautiful pottery and China objects and paintings. There were scale models of what Brussels looked like four hundred years ago. All very classy and beautiful. Each room had plasticized handouts on the wall that were English translations of the writing by each exhibit.
Did I say classy? How come to the third floor. Here we have an exhibition changed every week of 100 of the 750 costumes of Manniken Pis. He has been wearing costumes for special days right back to the 17th century. I took pictures of some of them and wait for it. There is a costume from Canada among the rest. It just happen to be on display this week.
After watching a movie about him I went back to see the fountain again. This was a special day. He was dressed in a costume pertaining to one of the Belgian schools o higher education.he is dressed approximately 35 days a year.
I had a hearty bowl of Vegetable soup with liberal amounts of bread and butter for lunch and strolled around the downtown area in the afternoon. I watched street musicians, saw the burgomeister statue, found a bar called Roosters. I was supposed to meet a postcrosser at 4:00 so I spent the last hour visiting the Cathedral. King Baudouin has a bust on the walkway upto the Cathedral. That wasn't as unusual as the strange art on the lawn and the lounge chars permanently on the grass.
The inside of the church is impressive. I took a picture from the rear of the church and from just in front of the altar. It is very beautiful.
I went to Mokafe and met Anna (Anneke) and we went and had tea and lemon meringue pie. More like lemon cheese cake with liberal hand brûlée-ing the meringue. It tasted good but the meringue was melted. Fabiene and Laurence (female) failed to show but it was cold and I was tired so I took a sandwich home to eat later.
I am all packed for tomorrow. I will set off early as the station is big and I would rather be early and have time to find the right platform then be rushing and get myself upset.
I will blog after I get to Nicky's.

November 3rd

Woke up early and lay in bed planning my day. Laura and her husband go to work so by 8:30 I had the apartment to myself. I took a shower, lots of hot water and got ready to leave. It is windy and cold out so I brought my gloves and hat and umbrella as it says it will rain today. I'm hoping for late afternoon or evening so I won't get wet.
The first thing I noticed when I left the apartment was the wall art on the building in the next block. I got dark early last night so I hadn't seen it then. I soon discovered as my pictures show that it is all over the city. Nice touch and the graffiti artists seem to respect it as none have been badly overwritten.
I took pictures today of several fountains around the city. These were attached to an underground system which supplied drinking water to the city.
Even Brussels isn't perfect did you notice the picture of the building in Broukere Square with the ugly Coca-Cola sign on it? I stopped for a coffee and a sweet roll. When I walked around the corner I discovered an archeological site from 1238 but it only open once a month, and of course that day is the day I leave Brussels. I took apicture anyway. There are lovely little lane ways and corridors that lead to courtyards that hold restaurants or other businesses. These have been around for hundreds of years and people just adapt then to their own use. The decorations around the doorways are delightful.
St. Nicholas church is righ in the middle of the pedestrian streets and has adapted as well. On the inside you notice that all the stained glass windows are very high. On the outside you notice that the church has a front but the sides are all store fronts. If you look up you see that the stained glass windows are on the second floor.
There are chocolate shops everywhere. You cannot move 15 feet without smelling chocolate, without being offered a sample or just finding another window display. On the small streets the doors and windows are open and they are selling hot chocolate in every variety. Hot milk and the give you a spoon with a wedge of chocolate on it. You melt it into the hot milk to get your hot chocolate.
I found an interesting ceiling in the bathroom (yes I hate calling it a toilet) in one of the buildings. It had led curly strings hanging from the ceiling. I don't know why, but it was interesting.
Off I went to find young Mannekin Pis. He is a few blocks away from the Grand Place. The fountain was part of the water system I talked about. There are about six different legends about the origin of the statue. The present one dates from 1617 but because it was stolen several times the one on display is a copy -the original is in the Brussels Museum which I will go to tomorrow as it isn't open on Mondays.
I discovered that there was a flea market several blocks away. I planned the route and headed out. I grabbed a sandwich on the way. I saw some beautiful houses with carved balconies and decorative woodwork along the way. When I arrive the market was in full swing and huge. There were tables of jewellery, knick-knacks, China, silverware, displays of furniture and paintings. There were also piles of clothing, curtains, rugs, bedding. Boxes of miscellany at every turn. I saw bicycles, children's toys, pottery, suitcases, books, CDs, records, vhs and DVDs and the players to play them on. I saw a rooster I would have liked but the man wanted too much and wouldn't budge so I walked away.
Across a narrow lane from the square was Sacred Heart Church. I love visiting churches because of the architecture. They are magnificent works of art before modern technology took a hand in building. The vaulted ceilings and domes are beautiful.
I walked about Brussels. It was starting to rain a little. I saw someone installing boring concrete tiles over the face of an ancient brick building being renovated. How sad.
I saw several more beautiful churches, a Belgian postman and some policemen on horseback. I found the dinosaur museum and the museum on Belgian art. I began to seriously rain so I took the bus back to the St. Hubert Gallery and had soup for supper. The roof of the Gallery is glass but some panes must be broken as we all had to move inside as we started getting wet.
After supper I took a route back toward the apartment going through buildings that were malls to keep dry. My umbrella blew inside out at one point and it got so windy that i couldn't trust it. When I was going through one of the buildings with a casino upstars I took pictures of the upper gallery changing colours as the lighting changed.
Got home a little wet but happy. Went to bed early. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nov 2nd - Leaving Paris arriving in Brussels

November 2nd
Woke up early and got ready to leave. I made sure I had left nothing behind. Packed all the last minute items that I was using. Rechecked the bathroom and bedside table. I gave myself about two hours to get to the right platform at Gare du Nord. It shouldn't have taken that long but in Bremen there was a last minute schedule change and I would have missed the train if I had just shown up 5 minutes before the train was scheduled to depart. Well it turned out that there were a lot of stairs to negotiate and many corridors were empty so I had to negotiate them by myself. I really appreciate the cities with elevators going to each level of platform. In Paris one day, to switch trains I had to come up two flights to get to the surface only to discover the metro was above ground and I needed to go up another two flights for that train. Anyway when I got to La Chappelle station I forgot how far through the tunnels I had to go to get to Gare du Nord. I was walking and walking and I was sure I was going in the wrong direction. I finally asked a guard and lo and behold I was 20 feet from the gate that separated the metro from the train station. I was about 45 minutes early. First I gave my two extra Metro tickets to an elderly gentleman with a cane who looked like he could use them. I hope he understood that they were new tickets. Next I sat near the departures board waiting for them to announce the gate for my train. And I waited and waited and waited. They finally announced the gate about fifteen minutes before the train left.
It was a fairly uneventful trip except for two little boys. One sat quietly and watched a DVD that his mother brought, earphones on so we weren't disturbed. The other wasn't bad but was bored so he was loud, and a bit of a pain. I wish his mum would have brought a DVD player for him.
I arrived in Brussels and of course couldn't find the Metro (no signs), so as usual I asked a cop. He said down this way and hang a left at the big Zebra - what - a big zebra!? So I walked on and almost walked past the statue of a horse in a zebra costume sitting at a table in the food court. What a laugh.
The metro let me off at De Laaken St. I walked down a block and found the place. Laura's boyfriend came down to let me in and carried the suitcase up the stairs. I forgot that the second floor is the third level in Europe. They count 0, 1, 2 not 1, 2, 3. Oh well I need the exercise if I'm going to eat treats.
I settled my luggage and headed downtown. It is cold in Brussels.
On the way out I took a picture of the courtyard at the back of the building. Very pretty. At first I was disappointed with the street and area I was in. It seemed plain and not exciting for being downtown. Then I discovered that I am one longish block from the Main Street running parallel to it. I found all the restaurants and stores I was looking for.  One block on the other side of Anspachlaan is the pedestrian portion of the downtown. It is all narrow streets and twists and turns. A church that has a front but the sides are all stores. Restaurants that have more seating outside than in. Their awnings nearly touching those on the other side of the street. Just enough room to walk. Cobblestone streets and souvenir shops rubbing shoulders with upscale jewellery and ladies wear stores. I love it.
Next on to the Grand Place. Gorgeous 500 year old buildings trimmed with gold paint. Architecture that is beautiful partly because you know they had no modern technology but the craftsmanship has lasted this long. The bones of the buildings are old but they are maintained so that they don't fall into disrepair. One of them today is covered up during maintenance but the covering is a picture of the building so the hoarding doesn't ruin the look of the square. Turn the corner and you find street musicians playing for their supper.
I made only one mistake today. I ordered moule frites. They were delicious steamed in a liquid containing celery and onions. It was a huge serving and I ate them all. Three hours later my stomach said "They must still be alive because they are running right through you. "
Oh well the bathroom is right outside my bedroom door and I brought Imodium with me. I'm lucky, something like this usually happens before the three week mark. My stomach and other parts settled down after about an hour and I got a good nights sleep.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Saturday my last full day in Paris

Woke to a beautiful day in Paris. The sun is shining and I can see both Sacre Couer and the Eiffel Tower. There is no fog or smog today.

I checked the map and one block over and turn left and I can go back to the Bastille to check out the market stalls that were empty yesterday but I expect will be full today.

It doesn't take much to make me happy. I found a "nez", which is a public water tap with clear cold water. This one the water squirts from the mouth. I took a picture. The market was in full swing but these artisans and artists want a lot of money for their originals. I passed on a 4 inch rooster for 30 euros or about 50 dollars.

I headed down to the Metro and got a surprise. I've seen panhandlers with dogs but this was my first rabbit. Check him out on Facebook. I took some pictures and gave them .50.
I was heading for the Eiffel Tower because that is where most of the boats leave from. Today is take a boat tour day. I walked from the ecole Militarie station over to the Champ de Mars. I'm not sure why there are hoardings up everywhere. They aren't enclosed they just snake up the lawn open on one side and then the other. They seem to be there to discourage people walking on the grass. A Belgian family was trying to take a selfie so I volunteered to help. Peggy they said the pictures turned out nice and they were not crooked. In turn they took mine with the Tower in the background.
I walked through under the tower and bought a pistachio and citron ice cream. Always eat dessert first when on vacation. I walked across the bridge and bought some key chains. Bought a ham and cheese on french bread. Ate it in the park nearby. I decided to walk down to Pont Alma and met another two Belgians on the way. These ladies were looking for the Champs Élysées and were lost. I showed them how to get there. One tourist leading another. I took a picture of the flame which is dedicated to the French Resistance.
I took the boat tour from Pont Alma as they broadcast in English and you don't have to wear an earpiece to listen. Relaxing enjoyable trip. Took an hour - not as spectacular as the Berlin one or as interesting as the Amsterdam one, but a relaxing journey. Haha autocorrect just changed relaxing hour to relaxing journey.
I was going to head up to Monmarte area again but got off at the wrong stop walked the wrong way and got lost. Once I figured out where I was (asked someone), I decided to stop for a beer instead. Free wifi so I followed Milos Raonic playing Thomas Berdych and winning while I drank that beer.
Returned to the apartment packed cleaned up and went out for supper. An omelette and salad was all I  needed. I am off to Brussels in the morning.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday in Paris.

Laundry was one of the top things on my mind this morning. I washed everything I wasn't wearing except my coats. I bundled all my clothes into my suitcase and trundled down to the laverie around the corner. People in Paris are just as nice as they are everywhere else. First an elderly gentleman showed me how the washers worked. All the controls are on the opposite wall, but after you pay for your machine on the wall you have to press the button on your machine to make it start. Set the temperature and cycle, divide the soap between prewash and wash before you press the buttons. Same thing for the dry but remember to press the button or it won't start as the young lady showed me.

Next lets talk about toilets. Can we give all the architects in Europe lessons on what a toilet should look like. It should have a seat. A urinal is porcelain with no seat. Paris Omnisport Arena has women's urinals pretending to be toilets. It isn't the only bad one. I don't care how they flush or how much water is in them, but they should be comfy to sit on in order to do the job.

After laundry I decided to do a little shopping for Peggy. I found a new quilting/patchwork shop in Paris. Inez knew Diane from The other shop. Diane died just after we met her. Inez said that a few months after opening that shop she discovered she had cancer and passed away about three months later. The strange thing is that she was always afraid that her husband who was twenty years older than her would die first and she would have nothing to do. That was why she kept the store open. On the way I visited St. Ambroise Church. I love visiting the old churches to see the stained glass windows.

I next found the Place de la Bastille. We had never visited it before. Looks like there is a huge market nearby I may check it out tomorrow. I started wandering around and found Place des Vosges. It is a pretty little park with trees and fountains a few blocks from the Bastille. I spotted the arches under the building and when I walked through it was so pretty I stayed for a while. Very peaceful.

I picked up lunch as I wandered and found a bench down by the Seine and ate. Crossed the Ile de la cite and stopped to listen to a band on the street. Carried on past the back of Notre Dame and crossed over to the left bank.  Rue St. Germaine had a street market so I took all that in. Then I found a free museum - history of the Prefecture of Police. Kind of fun, not too gory but records on display back to the 1600's. Rather interesting.

Took a bus to Gare de Lyon. Took some pictures in the lobby and finally figured out the Metro was two floors down. Took the metro home. I'm heading down the street for supper. It will be an early night tonight.

Well I finally met a Frenchman who tried to rip me off. Didn't work though. I didn't just fall off a turnip truck. The waiter short changed me 5.00 euros. Did he think I wouldn't notice? I let them know even though I was counting on my fingers (onze, deuse, treize,) I know 13.90 from 50 is 36.90 not 31.90. Not eating ther again!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Paris Open Tennis

Most of you know I love tennis. I never played the game but I have come to understand it and the strategy involved in playing the game.
When I decided to come to Europe this fall I checked and found that the Paris Open was on at Bercy omnisport so I asked Nicky if she wanted to join me and we bought tickets for the second and third round which were played on Wednesday and Thursday. Now you know why I haven't blogged in a couple of days. Thirteen hours of tennis for two days or more than twenty four hours in forty-eight hours. I was in the front row for Milos's second round appearance. Saw Andy Murray twice, Djokovic, Federer, Dmitrov, Kei Nishikori. Six matches each day and it was so exciting. They do the intros like the NBA Basketball games. Flashing lights, loud music, graphics on the floor and walls. Bouncing tennis balls and waving tennis courts. The crowd responds just as loud back. I discovered I can't count backwards in French. As the games play everyone claps and chants between points. "Mon-fils" clap, clap clap or "Nole" clap clap clap. The building rings with encouragement and excitement. I loved it. 
Nicky left today to go back to England. She caught a late Eurostar. She was originally going to stay til Saturday but a friend's husband passed away and the funeral is tomorrow. But I'm a big girl. I got home safely tonight which is the only time I will be home late. I have to do laundry tomorrow - I found a laundromat about a block from here. Then I am off to do some more sightseeing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oct 28th Paris

October 28, 2014
The 27 th was ice cream weather in Paris. The 28th was gloves and scarf weather. There was mist/fog this morning which the weather said would burn off.  It didn't but we went up to /Sacre Couer anyway. It was quite breezy at the top but the church was warm and beautiful. After the little tour around we walked around Montmarte and looked at all the artists trying to get people to buy pictures of themselves or their children. We found some good souvenir shops and bought a few little things and at shirt for me in case I can't find a laundry. Good excuse, eh?
Because the day was gloomy we returned to the apartment for lunch. After a rest and the weather not getting better we decided to go to Notre Dame. The apartment is well set as there are 4 metro lines within a block of it.
We toured through the church and walked around the square, waited for it to be lit up, stopped at Starbucks for a mocha and a pumpkin spice latte and then headed to a restaurant near the apartment. I had onion soup and Nicky had the penne with mushrooms. They gave us olives and an amaretto as an after dinner liqueur. Great end to a great day.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Oct. 27th Paris

October 27,2014
I woke up early only to find that the clothes were still wet. I hung my shirt right on the rad and got it dry enough to wear. We turned the heater on in the bathroom and went out to grocery shop. The market is only two doors down so shopping is easy. Fruit, bread, milk, snacks and supper for the next two nights. Came back, had a late breakfast and headed downtown. We got off the metro near the Louvre and walked down the quayside. We crossed over and through the arch and wandered around the courtyard. We headed for the gardens and them Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysees. We went underground to get to the Arc de Triumphe. Then we headed for the Eiffel tower, always a beautiful sight. We walked down the field of Mars and took the Metro back to the apartment. Nicky made a beautiful meal of sausage, salad, and jacket potatoes.
A good end to a good day.


On Saturday night we had a raffle to distribute all the lovely gifts that everyone had brought. I got chocolate for Halloween. It was a lot of fun. I went back to signing postcards. Many others were playing twister or other board games. Before I went to bed I packed as much as I could so that I would be ready to leave by 10:00 so we would have time to drive to Saarbrucken and catch the train to Paris. I tried to say goodbye to many at night and woke up early to have breakfast, find my cards to but in the mail ins and say goodbye to people getting ready to leave. Hanko was looking anxious and it was time to leave so I collected my bag and waved a final goodbye and headed for the car.
I wasn't the best passenger as I fell asleep most of the way. We saw several riot squads of police heading for a nearby Neonazi rally. We ran into construction that reduced lanes down to one each direction but I was on the train platform with 15 minutes to spare. Then Hanko read off the announcement that the train was 25 minutes late. I sent Nicky a message but I failed to notice that the train was going to a different station to the one Nicky was sitting in. Luckily it was only 5 minutes away so I found her and we headed to the apartment.
After getting the keys and finding the place we went out to dinner. A lovely omelette and a glass of wine.
We came back and started the washing machine. After an hour we figured out that it broke. It wouldn't rinse or spin. So we hand wrang them out and hung them on a drying rack.  They were still wet in the morning so we turned on the heater and draped them over. My shirt and underwear were soon dry.

That is all for October 26th

Postcards, postcards, postcards

Last entry I said we arrived in Bielefeld. That night about three quarters of the people were there. The rest arrived the next day. Everyone was wearing name badges with their nickname, real first name, country and one star for every year they had been coming to the meeting. Some of the names were hard to pronounce and some were just wrong when pronounced in English, so everyone laughed. It was in good fun but I wished I had a hard name like Hermione so I could laugh at them.
On Thursday night people were writing postcards that they would send. The group had printed up stickers that said 5th annual meeting etc, so you collected them and added them to your card. There were also strips with everyone's name and a place for a check mark so you knew if you had signed the cards. I want to do that at our next meeting.
I had a nice roommate, Brigitte from Bremerhaven who spoke English quite well so we lay in our beds and carried on talking for awhile. She has been here 4 times before and could tell me about things.
The next day we went to the Nixdorf computer museum. Quite a good display of all the ages of printing, telephones, calculators and computers. There were several old relics that I had used over the years. I have been working with computers for 49 years. I posted some pictures on Facebook. By the time we got back signing postcards was in full swing. There are so many people to sign that I could only use stickers on the larger cards. I have learned to print very tiny.  Some people went geocaching in the evening. I lent them my flashlight. Others had gone to a unesco site during the day. Everyone does there own thing but we all are together in two rooms working away.
More later - I'm in Paris this morning and it is my turn for a shower.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Catching up on the last few days.

October 22, 2014
Woke up and found that it was raining in Berlin. Not pouring but a steady rainfall. I spent the morning drinking Roodiboos tea and writing postcards. People leave their heart in San Francisco, I left my hat in Berlin. I ventured out to find a store to buy a cheap hat and some socks. The land lady suggested one. It was a cheap looking store but the hats ad socks were expensive since I won't need them when I got home. I stopped for a good burger at a little tiny restaurant and asked the tattooed cook. He told me where the best shop was. I found some socks for one euro and a hat for two euro.
I was heading downtown and asked people how to pay for the tram. They said there was a machine inside but it only took coins. I was about to leave to get some change when the leader of the group, a very nice lady pulled outs an envelope of tickets and gave me one. People in Berlin are very nice.
I met Ana and Paulo for coffee (which ended up being tea and brownie marble cheese cake). We made arrangements to meet at the train station as we will go to Bielefeld together.
We did a little postcard shopping and then they pointed out a covered market that I might like to see. It was like the inside of the St. Laurence Market, very interesting. I headed home and ate at my favorite Italian restaurant (downstairs) and spoke English so the young men who run it could practice their english. I had gnocchi for supper. Went upstairs, packed and finished off the bottle of wine I had purchased a couple of days ago.

October 23, 2014
Got up bright and early. I am all packed and ready to go. I went out and by a very circuitous route I found a shopping mall that Johanna had told me about. On the way I also found pfennig world - a bargain shop. I didn't buy more socks but I found a treasure or two. I headed for the railway station. I took the bus and then was about to switch to the metro for one stop when a man offered to help me with my suitcase. It was a good thing. He asked where I was from and where I was going and he said he had a few minutes so he would help. We went up, down, across, up again on and on as it is a multiple station and we had a long way to go. He delivered me to my platform shook my hand and wished me a good trip. Thanks didn't seem to say enough. Berliners are great. I met Ana and Paulo an few minutes later and we caught the train to Bielefeld.
When we arrived in Bielefeld we found a taxi. Just as it was about to leave another postcrosser stopped us and asked for the address. He was from Denmark. We added one more to our taxi.
Everyone here is very friendly and has made me feel at home. There is a lot of German spoken but many times they will tell you what they are talking about and there are others like me not from Germany so you hear English as well. More later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21

October 21
iPad has decided that if I am in Germany than I must be German. All the notices that pop up are in German. I have no idea what it is saying. Vorchau (?) is one of the latest. Also once in awhile the camera freezes and I have no idea what the message says. On the train, in the station and at different tourist points they try to do German and English. This consists of fourteen sentences in German and one sentence. i. e. The train is delayed, thank you in English. I start to laugh every time it happens. I'm sure they all think I am crazy.
I walked down town today. I found a different route with less construction. When I was down at my favorite bridge with the Iron Eagle and all the love locks on it I found the bus that would take me right to the house I am staying at.
I arrived down town too early for the Riechstag so I wandered over to the Bode Museum on Museum Island. I don't go to museums but I had to go to the bathroom. The foyer was beautiful, the bathroom was free and there was a bookstore and coffee shop.
I headed for the Riechstag but was early so I had lunch - goulash soup. Wonderful 90% meat plus delicious soup and a few veggies. Still had lots of time so I made my way into the park. Not the tiergarden but a park along the Spree between the Riechstag and the "pregnant oyster". I found the Berlin carillon. It actually looks Japanese. And beside it was a Garden against war.
Returned to the Riechstag and managed to get in early. Ana and Paulo had invited me to go to the philharmonic at 1:00 pm but the time was so close to my appointment I was worried I would miss time so I said no.  As it was I got in early because I was there. I walked around and saw all the various views, but it was a very cold and windy day today so I stopped at the cafe and had expensive hot chocolate. It came in a beautiful cup decorated with ladybugs.
After my visit I walked to the Brandenburg gate or tor and walked up the Unter den Linden. This is a wide boulevard like the champs élysées in Paris but there are suppose to be linden/lemon trees along it. The lemon trees are few and the street I'd under construction like half of Berlin. There is another set of historic signs about the Second World War in the middle of the boulevard.
Next I was off to find Checkpoint Charlie. It was a bit of a walk but I found it. Mostly commercialized, I had my picture taken with 2 men dressed as soldiers (I doubt it) for 2 euros. Taken 18 times. I think the guy taking the pictures was having fun with the iPad.
I had to walk back to my favorite bridge so on the way I detoured to check out Gendarmenmarkt with its two churches and the philharmonic in between. Very beautiful. I went in the French church. It was very plain but dignified.
The best part was the police giving a bunch of teenagers a hard time. The teenagers go around pretending to be deaf and ask you to sign a petition. Once you sign they are no longer deaf and tell you that you agreed to give them a donation. We ran into them before. I think it was in Rome.
I found that bus. It delivered me right to my door, well across the street. I had a glass of wine and went out for pizza. The restaurant is right below my window. In Germany pepperoni means peppers not pepperoni. My pizza had salami mozzarella mushrooms and banana peppers. I even ate some of the peppers. The young men were so nice I couldn't say no peppers.

Berlin, the Dom, the TV tower but no Reichstag today

October 20th
I had a bit of shopping to do today and I need to find a euro store to buy some socks. All this walking is wearing them out.
It turns out that the Zion church a couple of blocks away was a hotbed of discontent when the wall was up and the arrest of the clergy and the raid on the church caused part of the riots that brought down the wall. Once the police released the church people it was an end of their power in east Berlin.

I tried to book a tour of the Riechstag but it would have been this evening so I will go tomorrow afternoon. I won't get to walk to the top of the dome as they are cleaning it this week. Should be a little less busy as people will put it off if they can.
I headed downtown. I walk at least 5 kilometres every morning to the first site I am going to see. This time it was towards the tv tower. I stopped along the way for lunch. I had a grill runner hotdog. A grill runner is a man wearing a small grill that hangs over his shoulders and he is grilling bratwurst on the grill and selling them as they are done. You get a foot long sausage and a 4" bun.
My first stop was the Marienkirke. Or church of St Mary. It is very old and is in the shadow of the TV tower. As usual a gypsy sitting on the step. Inside they are rebuilding a mosaic of death dancers that was damaged during the war, one tile at a time. Each tile costs 2 euro 50 and they show the progress right in front of you. They are about a third finished.
There is an interesting park between the church and the TV tower. The children get to play on built in trampolines. I took some pictures. When I got around to the front of the tower there was turmi the tower mascot having his picture taken with the children.
Huge lineup, but only for people who didn't have a chip card. Got the ticket and a three hour wait. I refused to pay double to jump the queue.  So off I went to explore while the time ticked away.
I went to look at the Dom or Cathedral. For once being old paid off, I got a discount on the price. They had audio stations so you could hear about the history of the church and the descriptions of the art work. There was even one in the crypt talking about who was buried there and who wasn't.
I returned to the tower and found that they had pictures of all the towers around the world including the CNTower on the walls in the foyer. After a wait I went up in the elevator to the top. There is no view in the elevator except to watch the cables. I spend some time walking around and seeing all the views then I headed down and walked home. On the way I bought a litre of wine for 1 euro 19 or about $1.80. Not bad wine for that price. I ate at the restaurant downstairs and had Spaghetti bolognese and a Desperado Beer.
I went to bed early that is why there was no blog yesterday. I'm off for pizza tonight I will try to do today's blog when I get back.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Sunday October 19, 2014
The day started with a trip to Mauer park which is only a few blocks away. There was a big flea market there. It had to be a mile long and seven or eight rows of stalls. Typical of Europe there was a man charging .50 euros to use the portapotty.  There was a lot of beautiful furniture and household items but I don't have room for that stuff but it was fun looking. There were some great street musicians around as well so a great time.
I headed towards downtown Berlin thinking that I would just wing it and decide as I went what I would see. Within minutes I had found the best and worst of Berlin. For the next two hours I walked the Berlin Wall. It was the saddest thing I have ever experienced. In the ground for about ten blocks is a bronze line that shows were the wall stood, were escape tunnels were dug, where the guard towers were, where the Jewish cemetery was desecrated, where the church was torn down. There is a wall of the people who died trying to escape. The other day I said that Anne Frank house was moving, well this was devastating. Anne died before I was born but the wall was in my era. I was a teen when it when up and in my 40's when it came down. The tears flowed today as I remembered those times. There is both audio and postures to go with the line. I have posted some of the pictures.

On to something a little happier. I continued on into downtown Berlin heading for the Brandenburg Gate. When I reached the Spree river I decided I needed some fun so I took a boat tour. It was an hour long and very interesting. Most of the government buildings are on either side of the Spree.
Funny item for the day. When Kennedy said "Ich bein een Berliner" half of Berlin was laughing because a Berliner is the name of a doughnut. Of course the guide also pointed out the buildings destroyed in the war or by the wall going up, but by then the sun was shining and things didn't seem so dismal.
On to the Brandenburg Gate. I found it. It is beautiful. Everyone was waiting for the illumination, so of course I waited too. Vanilla roodiboos tea from Starbucks kept me warm. It started about 6:30 so I headed home by 7:00.
Food for the day. Cherry Danish and roodiboos tea, lunch was bratwurst on a bun and fresh strawberries for dessert. Supper was pizza and a glass of wine.

From Bremen to Berlin

Saturday October 18th
I woke up early this morning. My internal clock has adjusted to Europe so I may stop setting the alarm on the cell phone. I made sure I was packed up, took my bags down to reception and took off downtown to see the square in the daylight. When I turned into the street that leads to the town square there was a Saturday market. Wonderful flowers, food, and craft booths open. I bought breakfast in the square. Waffles with icing sugar, cherries and whipped cream. I posted a picture on Facebook.  I wandered down the narrow streets of Shnoor, the oldest area of Bremen and of course visited the musicians again.
I went back and picked up my luggage and stopped at the post office to buy stamps. When I got to the station I was early so I fought with the Internet hoping to get on. No luck. I went up on the platform for the train only to find out it was cancelled and I had to get my ticket stamped and take a different train. They emailed me around the time I was fighting with the Internet. Luckily I caught the train and connected but I was an hour late getting to Berlin.
Two buses and I arrived at Kastanallee. The apartment is one floor up but the room is large and I love it. Picture on Facebook. Ana from Postcrossing left me an email and said to phone as soon as I arrived. I called and she and Paulo took me to a Korean restaurant for dinner. The gps took us on around about route but on the way back it was one turn and we were on the right street. Ana gave me a book of Berlin postcards and told me about the Sunday flea market in Mauer Park.
Here are some random thoughts I had while trying to write this blog.
Why is there a 6" bronze leg in front of a commercial building in Amsfoort, Netherlands?
Why do I always seem to find the train car with the seats backwards? Do people want to see where they have been, not where they are going?
 Why do bikes and trams have the right of way in Netherlands? Shouldn't people count? Why does a tram always seem to cross in front of you when you have a walk signal?
In Germany people put decorations on historic staues like Roland in Bremen and people say that he is just having fun. We put bows on geese in the Eaton Centre and it is a National outrage.
Bikes in the Netherlands are too tall. I don't think I could pedal from that high. They say you don't put your feet down you put it on the curb instead. I fall off little bikes I wasn't willing to try big bikes.
It is really hard to notice the difference between the sidewalk the bike lane and the street. They are just different patterns of brick or cobblestone.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Hello everyone.
I took the train to Bremen today. People along the way helped me with my bag on the stairs. I found the hotel without much difficulty and got directions to downtown.
Today was the first day of a festival in Bremen. There are rides and carnival games and lots of artisans down by the city hall. People dressed up in medieval costumes, musicians and food vendors lined the streets.
I had a late breakfast and missed lunch as there. Was no food on the train. I made up for it tonight. I had pome frites from a street vendor, beer, and littl donuts hot and drenched in icing sugar. Oh, did I mention the great chocolate and vanilla cream ice cream. The vanilla wasn't ice cream but the Chocolate was. I had a wonderful time but since I didn't know where the fireworks were I headed back to the hotel early. I will post pictures on Facebook.

I can hear the fireworks now. It is 10:00 so I am not going down stairs to find them.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Windmills and the Ann Frank house.

When I woke up this morning it was pouring rain. I decided to go to janse Shans anyway. This like pioneer village but with windmills.

By the time I got to central station the rain had stopped. On the bus I met two American women - my age who were going out there too. We talked, compared notes and decided to walk around together. We went out to the last windmill and then started back. There was a sawmill, a spice mill a cacao shop where you could make your own chocolate and lots of others. We went in one and up to the second floor and out on the deck. That one was a paint grinder. He mixed and ground colors.
We grazed on chocolate, cheese and specula cookies. I watched an artisan make pewter spoons with hot pewter and hand moulds. One of his moulds for a plate was 300 years old.
Time to eat. Dutch pancakes with bacon and cheese and for dessert we shared one with strawberries and whipped cream.

Back to Amsterdam and I went back to the cheese museum to show the young man my Mammoth cheese postcard from Ingersoll cheese museum. I had promised to return and show it to him. I gave him the card and he gave me a cheese museum key chain.

The lineup for the Anne Frank huis was 45 minutes long but I stayed (they had free wifi outside.)

It is a moving exhibit

I'm now down the street eating vegetable and meat ball soup, having a beer an staring at the decorations. I will try to take a picture of the legs lamp and post it on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

second day in Amsterdam

If you read facebookyou know I got lost already and the police drove me to the boat.
After I got settled I took the bus back to central station and meet two ladies who send postcards the same as I do. We went postcard hunting. We had Chinese food for supper and. Walked around the red light district. Not all the windows had girls in them but enough to get the point.

This morning I had a typical European breakfast bread, ham, cheese and strong coffee. I have been out wandering the city since then. Before I left I wrote down the name of the bus stop so the bus driver won't let me off at the wrong stop.
I am sitting at a cafe near the Anne Frank house eating a Dutch meatball sandwich.
Will write more tomorrow.
Here is everything I forgot to say earlier. I went throu St Nicholas church. Very beautiful. I found the Magna Shopping centre -very high class. I explored Dam square and the area around it. Found the condomerie and bought some condom postcards. Had treat called ijs half ice cream and half whipped cream. Visited the cheese museum and the tulip museum.  Went to the blommenmarket- flower market.visited the church beside the Anne Frank huis but the lineup was too long at the Ann Frank huis.

And it is only 4:00 o'clock I am off to take a canal boat ride.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I'm off to Europe this afternoon

Well here I am eating lunch and trying to decide if I have packed everything I need and not too much stuff that I don't need.

I think I have made every arrangement I could for the house, the truck, the mail etc. I've cleaned out the truck and the refrigerator. I have packed and repacked several times.

I have Percy the aventura penguin with me so you will see him in the pictures.
I will be spending the evening in Toronto Airport and then I am off to Amsterdam for 3 days.  I am staying on a sailboat while I am there. I figure that is something I get a chance to do only once in a lifetime.
These are pictures of the sailboat